Noshing at Cafe Pesto on Hawaii, the Big Island
With humble beginnings as a small take-out pizzeria in the quaint harbor town of Kawaihae, Cafe Pesto has evolved into an award-winning restaurant serving both the east and west coasts of Hawaii Island.
Even with the considerable competition found in the resort areas of the Kohala Coast, this stalwart has been serving up Hawaii Regional Cuisine since 1988, and doing it very well we might add.
In each of our visits to Hawaii Island, over the past five years, we have always found our way into one of their two locations.
For this article, we were invited to sample a variety of dishes from Chef Casey Halpern in their Hilo, Hawaii Island location.
We began our gastronomical journey with a Cafe Pesto Beer Sampler which showcased Mauna Kea Pale Ale, Big Wave Golden Ale, Hawaiian Crow Porter, Volcano Red Ale, and Longboard Lager.
All were served in ice-cold glasses and they really hit the spot after a long day of exploring the Island. I really enjoyed the Volcano Red Ale, while Carol liked the Mauna Kea Pale Ale the best. That said, all were delish!
Keeping to their roots as a take-out pizzeria, Cafe Pesto still offers a variety of classic pizzas. Therefore, our first sampler was a Smoked Salmon Pizzette (a petite pizza w/ norwegian cold smoked salmon, rosemary gorgonzola, fresh spinach and sweet onions). Piping hot, tasty, and a wonderful introduction to Cafe Pesto’s cuisine.
Up next was Shrimp “Half Moon” Nachos (crispy asian-style chips topped w/ smoked mozzarella, split jumbo shrimp, cilantro sour cream, mild chili dressing, and kaiwiki corn relish). Wow! What a wonderful collection of flavors!
Served alongside the nachos, we noshed on Coconut Crusted Calamari (set on a slaw of arugula, won bok and pickled ginger accented with honey mustard-mango dipping sauce). Holy Monster Pieces of Calamari Batman! These were out of this world! If you like calamari, you gotta get these!
As the appetizer dishes were cleared away, Carol and I chastened ourselves a bit for not going a little easier on the appetizers. We still had the main courses and dessert to go!
Note: click photographs for larger view and available slide show.
Carol, on the other hand, opted for Wok-fired Shrimp & Scallops (pan-seared shrimp and scallops w/ chipotle tamarind sauce, hearts of palm, angel hair pasta, cilantro red pepper butter). This is one of Cafe Pesto’s signature dishes, and I got my hands slapped numerous times as I reached across the table to swipe shrimp and scallops from Carol’s plate. The flavors were remarkable, and was the best dish of the evening! YUM!
Now, I have a confession to make. I (David) am a complete sugar-aholic. It’s not really something that I am most proud of, but when a wonderful dessert crosses my palate, the enjoyment neurons in my brain go into overload.
When I took my first bite of Lilikoi Cheesecake (new york style with macnut cookie crust and lilikoi passionfruit topping) my eyes went back in my head and I slowly savored each and every bite. Completely and totally out of this world. We have become HUGE fans of Lilikoi.
Well, I hope you get the idea. If you’re in Hilo, Hawaii, you absolutely must enjoy a night of dining at Cafe Pesto. We highly recommend it.
Hmmm. I wonder if they ship Lilikoi Cheesecake?
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